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Conclusion and commentary

This year the main theme of the Report on Motoring is the reduced levels of engagement motorists' feel and an apparent reduction in their interest in motoring issues. This contrasts sharply with previous years where motorists were more willing to become involved with wider motoring issues.

This disengagement is in part due to the global recession, job insecurity and more personal money worries. Motorists do not have the time or energy to worry about matters that will not help pay the bills or put food on the table.

However, the other factor contributing to this is that motorists do not perceive there is a coherent plan for the future of motoring. Motorists are confused by a plethora of national and local government policies, many of which appear to be conceived in isolation of one another.

On the environment: Should motorists be considering alternative fuels or should they simply buy the most fuel-efficient car that uses conventional fuel? Should motorists expect to buy electric cars in a few years time and if so, will there be enough electricity generated from renewable resources to realise the benefits in reduced CO2 emissions?

On taxation: Motorists accept the cost of motoring should be based on the amount a car is used and the level of CO2 emitted by the car. But they also demand a fair return - in terms of investment in transport - for their taxes. They see new car tax scales, ever increasing fuel duty, the proposed showroom tax and the charges based on CO2 emissions being introduced by some local authorities, and wonder if investment will increase proportionately. They also question whether they are being asked to pay a higher charge for the CO2 they generate than other forms of transportation, such as air travel, which also generate large quantities of CO2? If so, is this fair?

On public transport More than ever before motorists are willing to get out of their cars and use public transport. But only where it offers a credible and cost-effective alternative. They worry they may be priced off the road before improvements in public transport make it a viable alternative. This is especially true of motorists living in rural areas.

On road pricing: Motorists are worried about road pricing. Is it just another revenue generator for the Government or can it really help to reduce congestion going forward? They also want investment in public transport to provide alternative methods of travel before being asked to pay more. Motorists have yet to be convinced that road pricing is essential to fund road maintenance and ease the bottlenecking within the infrastructure.

On road safety: Motorists are unclear where the balance lies between the interests of society in accident reduction and the freedom of the individual. They worry the boundaries are getting blurred between safety improvement and revenue generation - which is leading to a distrust of the motives of many 'safety' initiatives.

Motorists have become disillusioned with the way those in the corridors of power have behaved and are sceptical about the motivation behind changes that affect them. The opportunity lies in migrating to a more coherent and transparent policy framework for motoring. Any political party achieving this will go a long way to winning back the good will of motorists. Such a framework would need to:

Motivate motorists to choose vehicles that minimise the damage to the environment.

Motivate motorists to drive their cars responsibly and only when there isn't a viable alternative.

Ensure motorists pay a fair price for the CO2 they generate.

Motivate driving behaviour that minimises congestion by making best use of the existing road infrastructure.

Pay for the cost of maintaining the road infrastructure with those who use it most paying most. But one that balances the needs of maintaining the infrastructure with those of the wider economy in a clear and fair manner.

Campaign against the use of drugs while driving, in a bid to produce similar reductions in the number of accidents as the anti-drink-driving campaign has achieved.

Pay for infrastructure fixed costs such as DVLA on an equitable basis.

Continuously improve road safety while maintaining the goodwill of motorists by balancing any loss of individual freedom against the benefits to society.

Motorists are realistic. They realise the Government needs to protect revenue generation. They also realise society cannot move to a more equitable and transparent framework overnight and that this migration will take a number of years. Crucially it also needs to be seen to be fiscally neutral. The key to this is open and effective communications. The Government has shown it can communicate effectively on matters such as tackling drink-driving and in doing so, has maintained the support of the motorist by demonstrating the benefits to society. It has also managed this by personalising the message. It is much easier for people to support, for example, a reduction in urban speed limits, if they are asked how fast they would want people driving past their house or child's school.

The challenge for all policymakers now is to re-engage motorists. RAC believe messages on the environment, speeding, using mobile phones and drink and drug driving are too important to be allowed to fall by the wayside. As the political and economic world changes there is a window of opportunity to radically change the face of motoring, so when the recession ends everyone - motorists, government and manufacturers - go forward with a new sustainable agenda for motoring.

RAC call to action

8.3 What motorists will do to reduce congestion